Former women’s world road champion Tatiana Guderzo heads a powerful Italian national team chosen to contest the NZCT women’s cycling tour of New Zealand from February 22 to 26.
Race director Jorge Sandoval is always seeking to attract big name teams and riders to his events, and he has excelled in securing the Italian national team for the first time. Following on from Sandoval’s five-day New Zealand men’s classic in the Manawatu last month, the women will cover pretty much the same route but a couple of the stages will be shorter.
The five Italian riders are largely proven performers, none more so than the 27-year-old Guderzo. She secured her world title in 2009 in the Swiss city of Mendrisio after earning the bronze medal in the women’s road race at the Beijing Olympic Games the previous year. Guderzo was second in the world road race in 2004, and also gained the silver medal in the European road championships of 2006. She is almost as accomplished on the track, having won Italian pursuit and scratch race championships.
Monia Baccaille, who like Guderzo is a member of the Italian Mcipollini Giambenini professional team, was the Italian road champion in 2009.
Luisa Tamanini, the eldest in the team at 32, has been a regular silver and bronze medallist in the Italian road race and time trial championships, and the team’s youngsters, Rossella Callovi, 20, and Elena Cecchini, 19, have shine in world and European junior championship events. Callovi joined Guderzo on top of the podium at the 2009 world championships in winning the junior road race.
The Italians will arrive in Palmerston North a few days early to train and check out the stages, and given the status of cycling in their country they should be well prepared.
“Cycling in Italy is second only to religion,” Sandoval said. “People from around the world know Italy is a strong European cycling nation. The Italians’ appearance in the Manawatu will create strong interest in the NZCT tour, and help enhance its standing internationally.”
Sandoval also expects to announce the appearance of several other overseas teams in addition to a selected New Zealand line up.
Last year Sandoval introduced Manawatu stages to the tour for the first time, and he was so encouraged by the favourable response he decided to make a commitment to base both of his tours there long term.
With the closure of the Manawatu Gorge there will be none of the major climbs this time associated with his tours as was also the case with the men’s classic last month. However, their absence did not detract from the men’s event. In fact the climbing on smaller hills for extended periods still took its toll, particularly when the riders also had to combat strong crosswinds. It will be interesting to see how well the women cope over largely the terrain. Like the men, the women will start with an individual time trial.
Again Sandoval will have the support of the New Zealand Community Trust as well as the Palmerston North City Council and Sport Manawatu.